NHL Reiterates Federal Labor Law Preemption, Argues to Toss Latest Claims of Victims’ Families

On Friday, January 22, 2016, the National Hockey League filed a brief in Minnesota federal court in an attempt to weaken the multidistrict litigation concussion lawsuit against it. In particular, the NHL is seeking the removal of claims filed on behalf of the spouses and families of injured players, arguing federal labor law preempts their loss of consortium and wrongful death actions. In filing the brief, the NHL hopes to dismiss the concussion suit altogether by continuing to reiterate their argument that the suit does not belong in MDL.

The NHL supported its overall preemption argument Friday by stating that the family claims must be tossed because the underlying causes of action of negligence and fraud are preempted under the Labor Management and Relations Act — an argument similar to that posited by the NFL in its own concussion litigation.

The NHL’s brief comes in response to the class of former players filing an amended master complaint at the beginning of the new year, adding a section seeking redress for the families of deceased players.

The hockey governing body had first moved for dismissal in November 2014; a motion which is still currently pending. The League also cites to an Illinois federal judge’s dismissal of a suit brought by the estate of former NHLer Derek Boogaard as evidence in support of tossing the current spouse and family claims. The judge in that suit found that federal labor law indeed preempted Boogaard’s estate’s claims, holding the particular provisions of the collective bargaining agreements between the League and its Players’ Association would need to be interpreted in order to determine if any breach of duty occurred.

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